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As spokesman for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Philippe Reines stayed out of the limelight until recently, when he let the media get so far under his skin that he committed a media relations no-no.
The issue started when CNN took and then reported on information from the diary of the deceased U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens without his family’s permission and against the concerns of Reines and the U.S. State Department. After Reines denounced CNN’s report as reprehensible, Buzzfeed political reporter Michael Hastings jumped to CNN’s defense and condemned Reines’ denouncement as offensive. The two e-mailed back and forth about how the State Department handled the situation until Reines told Hastings to “f**k off” and “have a good life.” Hastings promptly reported the entire e-mail exchange in an article published on Buzzfeed.
Obviously the situation was extremely emotional for Reines, who lost four colleagues in the embassy attacks in Libya. But there is a lesson to be learned from this PR rock head move: No matter how angry a reporter makes you, do not lose your cool around them or use a communication channel that leaves a trail – like e-mail. Reporters salivate over controversy and drama. If a public figure lashes out at them, they will save all the e-mails and then report them.